Page 14 - Mosaic Sustainability Report 2012

The Mosaic Company, 2012 Sustainability Report
Understanding the
Importance of the Three
Primary Crop Nutrients
Basic agronomy tells us that plants require
three essential nutrients — nitrogen (N),
phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) — for
optimum growth and health. Mosaic is the
world’s leading combined producer of phosphate
and potash — essential crop nutrients for helping
the world grow the food it needs. With each
year’s planting and har vest, these essential
nutrients must be replenished in the soil. The
natural replenishment cycle is of ten slow and
generally unable to keep up with the annual
agriculture cycle. That’s where fer tilization plays
an essential role, ensuring that each season’s
crops have the nutrients necessar y to yield a
plentiful har vest.
The interactions among these three primar y crop
nutrients create much greater benefits than
when used alone. To fully understand the
impor tance of fer tilization, it is helpful to
have a basic understanding of the benefits of
balanced crop nutrition, which includes the
correct ratio of these three macronutrients, as
well as micronutrients such as zinc and sulfur.
For example, when nitrogen, phosphorus and
potassium work together in proper formulations,
they can significantly increase yields and improve
the plant’s abilit y to use each nutrient more
ef ficiently — reducing the amount of fer tilizer
needed and minimizing the potential for
nutrient runof f.
Sometimes referred to as the “superstar” in crop
nutrition, nitrogen is required by most plants
and in amounts greater than any other essential
nutrient. However, the balanced interactions
among nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium
are vital in order to increase yields and
improve nitrogen ef ficiency. In other words,
if a crop needs phosphorous and potassium,
then only applying nitrogen will leave the crop
Phosphorus (Phosphate)
Phosphorus is often referred to as the “energizer” in
crop nutrition because of its role in converting the
sun’s energy into food, fuel and fiber. It improves
root growth and water use efficiency, leading to
higher crop quality and higher yields. Adequate
amounts of phosphorus in proportion to nitrogen
also reduce soil nitrate levels by up to 66 percent,
reducing the amount of nitrogen that could
potentially be leached from the soil. Insufficient
phosphorus causes plants to use nitrogen
inefficiently, potentially resulting in reduced yield.
Potassium (Potash)
Known in agriculture as the “regulator,” plants
require more potash than any nutrient other than
nitrogen. Potash interacts with almost all essential
plant nutrients, regulates many processes within the
plant, and helps strengthen and build the plant’s
disease resistance. Soil test trends coupled with
environmental factors indicate that potash may be
more important than ever as potassium levels in the
soil continue to decrease. The continuous removal
of potassium as crops are harvested requires
biannual fertilizer applications for maximum yields.
Research shows that yields increase dramatically and
nitrogen use is enhanced as potassium levels are
increased. Without potassium, plant roots may be
underdeveloped, making them susceptible to water
loss, wilting and weakness — ultimately reducing the
plant’s yield potential.
If a crop needs phosphorous and potassium, then only
applying nitrogen will leave the crop malnourished.